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2017 Harvest: The Early Word on Wine

Around the world, extreme weather is throwing grape harvests off of their A-game. Harvest conditions can significantly impact vintage quality, price, and availability. So what can we expect next year, when 2017 wines start hitting shelves and menus? Here’s a quick cheat sheet by region.

California – Napa & Sonoma
Early verdict: 2017 Napa and Sonoma wine quality will vary by producer.
Quality: After a stable growing season, a major Labor Day weekend heatwave struck, forcing farmers to either harvest early or risk scorched grapes. Vineyards that harvested their grapes before the heatwave may yield wines with a cooler-climate profile, with higher acid levels and tannins that are less ripe. However, via Decanter, some vineyards weren’t forced to pick early, despite the heat. These were parcels positioned favorably away from the sun, or with farmed with proper canopy management. These vineyards let their grapes continue to hang and reach optimal ripeness, which should result in richer, more complex wines.
Availability: Very slightly lower. Many wineries will have to throw away a small portion of grapes that were raisinated. Bloomberg reports a harvest anticipated to be 5-35% smaller for some individual vineyard blocks.
Price: Creeping upwards. Crackdowns on undocumented immigrants have caused a labor shortage in Napa and Sonoma. The heat wave only made matters worse, as the remaining labor opted for cooler, less physically-demanding crop work (and yes, marijuana is one of these).

Washington & Oregon
Jury’s still out on the Pacific Northwest, with all eyes peeled on whether prolific wildfires will cause smoke taint. We’ll provide updates as we receive them.

Early verdict: 2017 Bordeaux will be scarce, but good quality.
Quality: After a devastating frost wreaked havoc on the 2017 wine crop, weather returned to normal. Via Wine Spectator, farmers are happy with the maturity and concentration of the harvest that remains.
Availability: The French Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the 2017 harvest is half of what it was in 2016. So we can expect significantly less 2017 Bordeaux, primarily in the low-end tier.
Price: Despite a significantly impacted harvest, prices are actually expected to remain stable. Higher end producers are already charging the upper limit on their first growths. Mid-tier producers want to maintain their distribution. It’s really the low-end, bulk wine producers that will be impacted, but less from a pricing and more from an availability standpoint.

Early verdict: 2017 Burgundy may not be the most complex or age worthy, but will be more plentiful than previous years.
Quality: After years of poor harvests, 2017 is the blessing many farmers needed. Via Decanter, the weather was tough. Farmers battled frost in April, a heat wave in July, and then rain that diluted grape sugars just before harvest. So while grape skins were sufficiently thick, not all parts of the grape, such as seeds and stems, were consistently ripe. Wine quality will really rely on the producer coaxing the best out of the grapes.
Availability: With volumes expected to exceed that of the plentiful 2009 vintage, 2017 Burgundy should be relatively easier to find.

South Africa
Early verdict: While the 2017 vintage won’t be large, it will be of good quality.
Quality: A two-year drought has plagued South Africa. Via Wine Spectator, this has created challenging growing conditions. Fortunately, despite a drought, moderate temperatures allowed grapes to stay on the vine long enough to achieve concentrated ripeness. Vintners are excited about the quality of this vintage.
Availability: The crop is definitely small, so don’t expect to see too many South African wines on shelves.

Early verdict: Similar to Bordeaux, Argentina also had an early spring frost that damaged crops. However, the remainder of the year saw an optimal range of temperatures that let the grapes fully reach maturity.
Quality: Excellent. Via trade association Wines of Argentina, 2017 saw very few temperature extremes. This let red grapes achieve rich color, tannin, and aromatics, along with “lower alcohol and better acidity” than prior years. 2017 whites will also be a great bet, with remarkable aromatics that let the terroir show through.
Price: Grape prices remain high, particularly for Argentinian Malbec. This will likely result in a continuation of the gradual increase of Argentinian wine prices.
Availability: Given low yields, don’t expect to see an abundance of 2017 Argentinian wines proliferating on store shelves.

Across the world, the general consensus seems to be that this year’s harvest didn’t come easy. Some regions will make out better than others, and more specifically producers that are more prepared will succeed. The books haven’t closed for all regions, so we’ll continue to provide updates as they arise.


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